When I was invited to a seminar on Bulgarian wine in New York last spring, I was eager to attend. My husband is from Bulgaria, so I knew quite a bit about the country and culture, but not too much about its specific wines.
What surprised me was how many others were interested as well: Every seat was taken for the Bulgarian wine session, and there was a line of hopefuls looking to get in. Oftentimes at wine events there are more tasting mats and samples set up than there are attendees.
It’s not just Bulgaria, though: Interest in wines from other Eastern Europe countries has increased as well. For instance, I was shut out of a Wines of Moldova seminar that had filled up, and had to stand in the back during a recent Hungarian wine presentation and tasting. (We’ll have to see what happens at an upcoming Wines of Croatia event.)
Wines from Georgia, Romania and Slovenia are also generating buzz. So what’s the big deal about Eastern European wines?
For one thing, while these countries have been making wine for centuries, they’ve stepped up the quality of their wines drastically in recent years. Eastern European winemakers have learned to move away from the uninspired, mass-production practices of the Soviet era to crafting more specialized and premium offerings.
And though they offer their own interpretations of globally popular wines, these countries are also embracing their unique varietals. True, some of these unfamiliar wines may require hand selling to guests, but there is more openness among consumers today about trying and discovering different wines.
Plus there’s the value proposition: Eastern European wines tend to offer an impressive price-quality ratio, especially in the $10 to $15 retail price range.
I was in Bulgaria this past summer for my niece’s wedding and was able to visit a few wineries. It was fascinating to learn about the country’s ancient winemaking history and observe the modern practices and equipment used today—and of course, taste the wines. For more on this, see Bulgarian Rhapsody.
Also in this issue we look at decadent dessert drinks, seasonal beer offerings and wine on tap. And don’t miss our cover story on gin. The botanical spirit’s comeback has been a long time coming. Maybe this time it’s truly, finally here.